Not to Delay

Well, it seems the DTV transition will not be delayed after all. The Senate voted on Monday to allow stations to shut down analog broadcasting at any time between February 17 and June 12, but the House of Representatives defeated that bill today.

Representatives Joe Barton (R-TX) and Cliff Stearns (R-FL) had implored House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) not to support the delay, apparently invoking 9/11 as a reason to complete the transition on the original schedule. According to some interpretations of the 9/11 Commission Report, if the TV spectrum had been available for emergency communications on that day, the lives of some rescuers might have been saved.

On the other hand, as I noted last week, the government has run out of money to fund the DTV-coupon program, leaving up to 2.5 million people on a waiting list, which is why many in Washington want to delay the transition. Clearly, the coupon program was mismanaged, especially by instituting expiration dates that left some 40 percent of coupons unredeemed.

Broadcasters are not keen on delaying—after all, they've been preparing for years. According to PBS chief Paula Kerger in her testimony before Congress yesterday, it would cost public stations something like $22 million to delay at this point.

So it seems that we're a go for launch on Feb. 17. Everyone please fasten your seatbelts and prepare for the DTV age!

If you have an audio/video question for me, please send it to scott.wilkinson@sorc.com.

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